Archive for the ‘Belton House’ Category

Silver at Belton: new, old and recycled

July 8, 2014
The south front of Belton House, painted by an anonymous artist in about 1720. Inv. no. 436145. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The south front of Belton House, painted by an anonymous artist in about 1720. Inv. no. 436145. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

A thread of silver runs through the history of Belton House. From the time the house was built in the 1680s by Sir John Brownlow, 3rd Bt. (1659-97), silver was an integral part of the interior. Even the staff of the porter, shown in a painting of about 1720 (but still surviving in the house), had a silver pommel and ferrule.

One of the set of four silver gilt 'pilgrim bottles' at Belton House, c. 1690. Inv. no. 436544. ©National Trust/Jack Heath

One of the set of four silver gilt ‘pilgrim bottles’ at Belton House, c. 1690. Inv. no. 436544. ©National Trust/Jack Heath

One of the third Baronet’s acquisitions is the rare set of  silver gilt chained water bottles, sometimes known as ‘pilgrim bottles’.

Silver gilt sconces originally made for king William III. Inv. no. 436541. ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Silver gilt sconces originally made for king William III. Inv. no. 436541. ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Later generations of the Brownlow and Cust families continued to add silver. John Cust, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl Brownlow (1779-1853), was one of the first collectors of antique silver. He bought a considerable number of late-seventeenth-century silver items from the royal silversmiths Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. These had been recycled from various royal palaces, where they were considered outmoded. As a result, some of the silver gilt sconces now housed at Belton give a flavour of the decoration of king William III’s palaces.

Silver and silver-gilt items on the dining table in the Hondecoeter room at Belton. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

Silver and silver-gilt items on the dining table in the Hondecoeter room at Belton. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

This year there is even more emphasis on silver at Belton than usual, with silversmith Angela Cork working as artist in residence, sponsored by the Goldsmith’s Company.

Questions of influence

January 28, 2011

Illustration from Johan Nieuhof’s ‘Embassy’ (1665 and subsequent editions). ©Edizioni White Star

In prepration for a talk that I am giving tonight I have been looking at the printed sources for chinoiserie. It is often very difficult to pinpoint the exact source for a particular design, but every now and again you come upon an exact match.

Chinoiserie tapestry at Belton House, Lincolnshire, commissioned from the Soho workshop in 1691 (acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984). ©NTPL/Graham Challifour.

The illustrated book about China by Johan Nieuhof, entitled The Embassy … to … the Present Emperor of China and first published in 1665, seems to have been particularly influential. You can find echoes of the palaces, pagodas, trees and figures depicted there in all kinds of decorative art in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

But in the case of the bullock-drawn carriage shown above the motif was copied almost literally in the lower left-hand quadrant of an early 1690s Soho tapestry at Belton House.

Sections of Soho tapestry hung in the Tapestry Room at the Vyne, Hampshire. They were originally commissioned for the house in about 1720. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The Soho tapestries at Belton are rather faded, but the ones at The Vyne have retained more of their rich dark colours. They were originally meant to evoke East Asian lacquer.

Design for a fireplace and wall treatment by Daniel Marot, c. 1700.

The architect Daniel Marot depicted them in the prints of interiors that he published in about 1700. And if you look closely you can see another direct match: the pavilion shown three quarters of the way up in the tapestry in the Marot print also appears in the top left-hand corner of the tapestry at The Vyne.

Ogilby redux

January 10, 2011

©NTPL/Layton Thomas

I thought I would share a few images of the copy of John Ogilby’s 1675 Britannia – the first ever road atlas for England and Wales – that was recently purchased for Belton House, and which has now been properly photographed.

©NTPL/Layton Thomas

The shoot was done for a feature about the book in the current issue of the National Trust Magazine.

©NTPL/Layton Thomas

It is shown here in one of the two libraries at Belton.

©NTPL/Layton Thomas

As I said before, the layout of the atlas is a bit like a modern satnav. Presumably travellers would have copied out the relevant sections on a piece of paper rather than carrying the entire volume in their saddlebag. And perhaps it was a bit like glossy cookbooks today: more acquired and displayed than actually used.

©NTPL/Layton Thomas

I am not sure why the sheperdess is showing off quite so much – perhaps she symbolises the allure of the open road.

©NTPL/Layton Thomas

Courtney Barnes of Style Court recently linked to an excellent feature on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website where curator Melanie Holcomb talks about the her fascination for maps.

A Breenbergh returns to Belton

December 1, 2010

Landscape with figures bathing near classical ruins, by Bartolomeus Breenbergh. ©Sotheby's

Yesterday we bought a painting at auction at Sotheby’s Amsterdam that was sold from Belton House in 1984.

Belton House seen across the Italian Garden. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

At that time Belton was being acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. However, there were not enough funds to purchase all of the contents of the house, and some of them were dispersed at auction, including this painting.

Classical ruins with Christ and the woman of Samaria, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, at Ham House, Surrey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

It is by Bartolomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657), a Dutch painter who spent time in Rome and developed a style of landscape painting that usually included classical ruins. Indeed, ruins became such a part of the Breenbergh ‘brand’ that he even included them in scenes from the Old and New testaments.

King Charles I owned no less than six Breenberghs, one of which ended up at Ham House, and is still in its early seventeenth-century frame.

The Red Drawing Room at Belton, showing some of the old master paintings still at Belton. ©NTPL/Mark Fiennes

In 1984 the Belton Breenbergh still had its ‘Belton’ frame, which many of the pictures there were fitted with. After being sold from the house it was given a new, seventeenth-century Dutch-style frame, which the new owner must have thought looked more authentic. The painting will now have a Belton-style frame made for it once again before it goes on display.

Birds in a garden, by Melchior de Hondecoeter (1636-95), at Belton. ©NTPL/Christopher Hurst

The Breenbergh originally came to Belton as part of the inheritance of Frances Bankes (1756-1847), who married Sir Brownlow Cust, 1st Baron Brownlow (1744-1807). Her father, Sir Henry Bankes (1714-1774), was a wealthy London merchant who assembled a substantial collection of Continental paintings.

The Hondecoeter Room, with paintings by Jan Weenix the Younger and Melchior de Hondecoeter. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The acquisition of the Breenbergh for Belton was supported by the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Seventeenth-century satnav

November 3, 2010

The Belton copy of Ogilby's Britannia, showing the route from London to Lincoln. ©National Trust

A few months ago we purchased a copy of John Ogilby’s Britannia at auction at Bonhams in London. The book has a provenance from Belton House, Lincolnshire. 

The north front of Belton House seen from the Dutch Garden. ©NTPL/Rupert Truman

John Ogilby (1600-1676) was an amazing polymath, who had successive careers as a dancing master, courtier, theatre owner, poet, translator and compiler of geographical works and atlases. 

©Bonhams

In 1675 he produced Britannia, which was essentially a road atlas in the form of strip maps guiding the traveller from A to B, not unlike today’s satellite navigation devices.

The maps were based on on-the-ground research facilitated by a wheeled contraption to measure distances. Britannia represented the first major advance in cartography since Tudor times and helped to standardize the mile at 1760 yards.

The Study at Belton, which was the main library in Lord Tyrconnel's day. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The book collections at Belton House are among the finest in any National Trust house, showing the reading and book collecting habits of one family over a period of more than 350 years.

The copy of Britannia was owned by one of the most bookish members of the family, Sir John Brownlow, fifth Baronet and Viscount Tyrconnel (1690-1754). 

Portrait of Sir John Brownlow, Viscount Tyrconnel by Charles Jervas. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Tyrconnel was keen on politics, but in spite of his support for the Walpole government (which earned him his Viscountcy) his contempories were not much impressed by his political skills. However, he was praised for his ‘nice taste and well-chosen knowledge’ of the arts.

The Belton conversation piece, by Philippe Mercier, showing Lord Tyrconnel (on the left) with his family in the grounds of Belton House. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Tyrconnel assembled a collection of old master paintings, but he also patronised the artists of the day. The charming Belton Conversation Piece by Philippe Mercier was one of the first ‘conversation pieces’ to be painted in England.

Tyrconnel aslo supported the poets Alexander Pope and Richard Savage. The latter was even offered shelter in Tyrconnel’s London house, but he was eventually thrown out again because of his habitual insolence and drunkenness and because he had pawned some of Tyrconnel’s books.

The Library at Belton. The room was created by James Wyatt in 1778 and was only converted into a library in 1876, but it does contain some of Viscount Tyrconnel's books. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Tyrconnel collected books on science, history, travel, theology, literature and the classics. The books at Belton have just been fully catalogued and can be searched through the Copac database.

The acquisition of the Belton copy of Britannia was generously supported by the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and by the Friends of the National Libraries.

Through Japanese eyes

April 29, 2010

Lindisfarne Castle in the snow, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takusama Ono

Takumasa Ono is an artist working in two traditions.

View of Mt Fuji from downtown Edo, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Cragside, Northumberland. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

On the one hand his work is reminiscent of the ukiyo-e school of Japanese printmaking, with its dramatic perspectives, striking silhouettes, and sensitivity to the seasons.

Belton House, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takusama Ono

On the other hand his pictures remind one of the British tradition of country house views, showing the house as the focal point of the landscape.

Belton House, English School, c. 1720. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

For a number of years now Mr Ono has been travelling around Britain making ‘portrait’s of National Trust properties. Each picture is a highly personal take on a particular place.

Woolsthorpe Manor (Isaac Newton's birthplace), by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takumasa Ono

Mr Ono is almost like one of those eighteenth century travellers seeking out picturesque views to sketch and paint.

A garden in spring, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Cragside, Northumberland. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

But instead of using a Claude glass to give a classical tinge to the view, he brings a subtle Japanese perspective to the image. In Japan, too, there was a tradition of making pictures of ‘famous places’.

Lyme Park in the snow, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takumasa Ono

This year Mr Ono will be showing his work at the following National Trust properties:

  • 30 April – 18 May: Ickworth House (Suffolk)
  • 28 May – 13 June: Dinefwr Park and Castle (Carmarthenshire)
  • 26 June – 11 July: Hanbury Hall (Worcestershire)
  • 23 July – 6 August: Speke Hall (Liverpool)
  • 18 August – 5 September: Baddesley Clinton (Warwickshire)
  • 8 September – 26 September: Wightwick Manor (West Midlands)

Farmers working in rice fields in the rain, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Scotney Castle, Kent. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Prints can also be purchased directly through his website. An interview with Mr Ono in The Artist can be read here.

Barbara of It’s About Time has just posted some beautiful photographs of Lindisfarne Castle (the Ono print of which is at the top of this post).

A re-attribution

April 13, 2010

Detail of the bust of Charles II at Seaton Delaval Hall, now attributed to Caius Gabriel Cibber. Image: National Trust/Andrew McGregor

In response to the previous post about the bust of Charles II, Alastair Laing has just told me that he now thinks the maker of the bust is in fact Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700). There is no documentation proving that the bust was either by Bushnell or by Cibber, but stylistically the latter seems a better fit. Such re-attributions are part of the ongoing research into our collections.

Sundial in the form of Time with an attendant cherub, by Caius Gabriel Cibber, in the Dutch Garden at Belton House, Lincolnshire.

Cibber was born in Denmark, travelled to Italy when he was about seventeen and moved to England in about 1655. He became sculptor to Charles II in 1667. When he was imprisoned for gambling debts this position allowed him to be released from the Marshalsea prison on a daily basis to carve the large relief on the monument to the great fire of London.

His masterpiece is probably the pair of reclining figures Melancholy Madness and Raving Madness which he created for the gates of the Bethlem Hospital. Other places he worked at include Belvoir Castle, Chatsworth, Hampton Court and St Paul’s Cathedral. A sundial by Cibber is at Belton House (above).

Visions of the east – double-take

March 30, 2010

Framed sections of Chinese wallpaper, in the Columnist's dining room.

This is a quick update on the previous post about the Chinese wallpaper at Belton House. The Columnist has now posted a bigger image of his own Chinese wallpaper panels, also shown above.

The wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Belton. ©NTPL

At first I thought the the Columnist’s sections were merely similar to the wallpaper at Belton, but peering at another photograph of the Belton paper, above, I suddenly noticed that the bamboo culms on the right-hand edge of the image are almost identical to the culms in the Columnist’s right-hand panel.

It is not an exact match, but near enough to be recognisably the same pattern. The type and position of the birds more or less match as well: a small one flying downwards and a larger one perching slightly higher with its prominent tail feathers pointing to the left. Interestingly, the human figures below are completely different in the two papers.

As these wallpapers were painted entirely by hand, it would have been easy to vary the pattern slightly depending on the requirements of the buyer and the price level. This then leads one to wonder if both wallpapers came from the same workshop, or whether different workshops used the same patterns. And so every answer leads to another question.

Visions of the east

March 29, 2010

The Chinese Bedroom at Belton House. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Fellow blogger The Columnist recently featured some sections of Chinese wallpaper (hanging framed on the wall of his dining room) that reminded me of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Belton House, Lincolnshire. The wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom was put up in about 1840, during the tenure of the 1st Earl Brownlow and his third wife, Emma Sophia.  

Detail of the wallpaper in the Chinese bedroom. ©NTPL/Martin Trelawny

The wallpaper itself is older, and was reputedly bought at the sale of another house where it had never been hung.  Some of the birds and butterflies were cut out from unused sections and pasted on, to fill the design out in accordance with contemporary English taste.

The Chinese themselves did not use such wallpapers and they were produced purely for export. The fashion for chinoiserie – or Chinese-style decoration – in the Regency and early Victorian periods was stimulated by the  extravagant interiors of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. 

©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The architecture of Belton represents the English house of the Restoration period in its purest form. When ‘Young Sir John’ Brownlow, 3rd Baronet, came into his inheritance in 1679, he decided to rebuild his family’s country seat in the latest style. Its design was inspired by the recently completed Clarendon House in London’s Piccadilly.

There is a certain continuity to the chinoiserie at Belton. As early as 1691 Young Sir John commissioned two tapestries from the Soho workshop of John Vanderbank which show a beguiling mixture of Chinese, Indian and Turkish elements.

One of the two Soho tapestries in the Chapel Drawing Room at Belton. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. ©NTPL/Graham Challifour

Chinoiserie was popular in the Restoration and William and Mary periods because luxurious Far Eastern products such as porcelain, lacquer and silk were becoming increasingly available through trade. At this time China was admired as a sophisticated and rationally organised society. As these tapestries show, however, the English conception of the east was still quite hazy and tinged with make-believe. 

Detail from one of the Soho tapestries. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Belton House was given to the National Trust in 1984 by Edward Cust, 7th Baron Brownlow. Thanks to generous grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Trust was also able to purchase the most importants contents of the house, and to set up an endowment fund for the property.


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